June 22, 2018

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Councillor asks city to push pause on arena sale

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>Winnipeg City Councillor Shawn Dobson outside the Vimy Arena late last year.</p>

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Winnipeg City Councillor Shawn Dobson outside the Vimy Arena late last year.

Two days before Winnipeg city council is set to vote on the matter, Coun. Shawn Dobson is urging his colleagues to put the Vimy Arena deal on hold for 60 days.

In a news release Tuesday, Dobson (St. Charles) said he recently learned from a senior administrator the arena site is worth far more than its initial appraisal of about $1.4 million. That evaluation only included the land around the shuttered arena and not the building itself, he said.

"The building was paid for by the taxpayers in the City of Winnipeg. If we were to build a similar structure without ice and purchase that land, it would cost upwards of $5 million. But we don’t have to, we already own it," Dobson said.

Vimy Arena was closed in 2015, after being declared surplus in 2013.

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Two days before Winnipeg city council is set to vote on the matter, Coun. Shawn Dobson is urging his colleagues to put the Vimy Arena deal on hold for 60 days.

In a news release Tuesday, Dobson (St. Charles) said he recently learned from a senior administrator the arena site is worth far more than its initial appraisal of about $1.4 million. That evaluation only included the land around the shuttered arena and not the building itself, he said.

"The building was paid for by the taxpayers in the City of Winnipeg. If we were to build a similar structure without ice and purchase that land, it would cost upwards of $5 million. But we don’t have to, we already own it," Dobson said.

Vimy Arena was closed in 2015, after being declared surplus in 2013.

Council's executive policy committee voted unanimously last week to endorse the $1 sale of the building and its parking lot to Manitoba Housing, which plans to lease the site to the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre to establish a 50-bed, long-term addictions treatment facility.

City council is set to vote on the issue Thursday.

Residents of the Sturgeon Creek neighbourhood, where the arena is located, have argued against the proposal, citing the needs for more recreation and green spaces.

"Giving (the Vimy Arena) away would be a disservice to all the residents whose tax dollars paid for it, especially when there is possibility that we could repurpose it and promote four-season activities," Dobson said.

"The biggest epidemic facing our society right now is inactivity. And a four-season facility would be much more beneficial to the residents in this community than an addictions centre."

Dobson argued a new asset report should be done immediately to include the Vimy Arena building and land. He said at least three other groups were interested in buying the property, too.

According to neighbourhood association Friends of Sturgeon Creek, those groups include a roller rink, a hockey organization and Equal Opportunities West, a centre advocating for adults with disabilities.

jessica.botelho@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @_jessbu

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski
Legislative reporter

Jessica Botelho-Urbanski covers the Manitoba Legislature for the Winnipeg Free Press.

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